We’re widely known for covering a diverse range of genres on this site, but truthfully speaking, folk is one we don’t delve in enough, which we find shocking given the prestigious history of that kind of music in Scotland.
We’ve been fortunate enough to have been exposed to a number of great talents under the category, but none have shined brighter than Iona Fyfe from Huntly. Since being introduced to her in 2017, she’s treated us to a pair of EPs and a full length album, the latter of which made a major impression on us and we’ll say without a hint of sarcasm that it is our favourite folk record.
So if it wasn’t abundantly clear, we’re big fans of Iona, but in all this time, we’ve never had the opportunity to see her live on stage. However, and thankfully so, the team at the Star Folk Club booked her to come on down to play The Admiral Bar in Glasgow, so as you’d expect, we marked the date on our calendar, and fast forward to the day, we arrived at the venue for the show.
But beforehand, we would be first treated to the duo of Jason Smith & John McNamara. John’s vocals were in really fine form, and he also contributed nicely with a variety of instruments such as a shaker, bongos, and most notably a snare drum intertwined with brush sticks, and in doing so creating catchy beats that had us tapping our toes, and in our peripheral vision, we could see we were not alone on that front.
We couldn’t have asked for a more ideal partner than Jason, who proved himself to be a very proficient guitarist, especially impressing in the sections more focused towards him, incorporating a fluent control and being able to switch chords in a flash with such ease.
They gave us a handful of covers, our favourites being those with a blues essence to them, but undoubtedly the highlight of the set was with Stay Young, where a chorus of singing gradually formed from the audience.
Capping off with an original composition, we had enjoyed the two of them, being a much welcome bonus to simultaneously warm us up and add more value to the money we spent for the night.
To start off the second half , Steve Wilson from down south stepped onto the stage and belted out a couple of unassisted pieces, possessing a tremendous baritone voice that was loud and large like nothing else, resoundingly ringing throughout the venue.
Brief, but what an impression made. Quite a shame we didn’t get any more, as we would have happily listened to him for at least another half hour or so.
And now for the star of the show – Iona Fyfe herself. The place came alive very quickly as she got the ball rolling with Guise Of Tough, where the majority of those in the room chimed along with the chief hook, and this was not the only instance, for anytime Iona signalled as such, everybody would join in as a unified troop.
In fact, participation was thoroughly encouraged in the dazzling Swing and Turn, and her request was answered in earnest, displaying just how strong of a grasp she held on the paying public. We loved both of her acapellas, the first of which was both charming and genuinely funny, achieving plenty of hearty laughs, while the latter was hauntingly eerie, and we found ourselves glued on the spot, totally fixated.
We can confirm that her voice is just as brilliant as it is on tape. It was something astonishing to behold, and she cracked every single solitary note with very little hassle, spanning a far wide pitch and being sung with a blend of sincere emotion and graceful passion that personally had us locked onto the lyrics and engrossed by the stories being told. It was also beneficial that she was expressive and spirited, doing wonders to further heighten our interest.
She did a good job picking a talented pair to accompany her. Charlie on the fiddle was concentrated and in the zone, and the degree-qualified Aidan was capable with the guitar in tow, whilst having a clear spring in his step, and together they provided pleasant harmonies in their own rights.
Over the course of two halves, Iona delivered an impeccably beautiful performance, chock full to the brim with amazing harmonies, sweet ditties and an irresistible personality, and we walked out completely satisfied and then some. It was blatantly evident that she has a loving dedication to her craft, and that definitely rubbed off on us.
Across the space of three record reviews, we’ve went into detail about how wonderful it is to listen to Iona and her material, but we must emphasise that after tonight, and trust us on this, it became obvious that until you witness her in her full glory live and in person, you haven’t experienced anything yet. A one-of-a-kind bonnie lass who is pure and gifted in every sense, and we will proudly continue to advocate her until the day she can’t go no more.